Threatened Immigration Raids Haven’t Happened
Another case where the cruelty is the point?
For weeks, President Trump has been tweeting about a massive, nation-wide sweep to round up illegal aliens. Thus far, not much has happened.
NPR’s Bobby Allyn (“Trump’s Nationwide Immigration Raids Fail to Materialize“):
President Trump’s threatened roundup of undocumented immigrant families this weekend that set migrants in many communities on edge showed few signs of materializing on Sunday, the second time rumors of a large-scale immigration enforcement operation failed to come to fruition.
Instead, in the cities where rumors of mass raids swirled, many immigrants stayed inside their homes, as jitters turned typically vibrant migrant markets and commercial corridors eerily quiet.
Immigrant advocates across the country, meanwhile, took to the streets to demonstrate in protest of the promised roundup.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement would not confirm any arrests, nor would immigrant rights activists.
“The ACLU has not heard reports of any raids today,” Ruthie Epstein, the American Civil Liberties Union’s deputy director for immigration policy, told NPR.
Before Sunday, there were weekend reports of attempted arrests by ICE in New York, New Jersey and Chicago, where The New York Times reported that a mother and her daughters were apprehended but the family was immediately released. But those actions appeared to be part of routine enforcement activity, not connected to a massive raid operation.
Still, fears of ICE catching migrants by surprise sent many into hiding on Sunday.
In Miami, one of the cities anticipating the crackdown on immigrants, a hush fell over a market usually buzzing with activity among immigrant merchants and shoppers.
“People are clearly hiding. If you look around, it’s the people who are working are basically the only people here. But the majority of our clients are immigrants. Some with papers, others with no papers, but they are all scared,” Yohanna Gomez, a Honduran immigrant who runs a Central American stall at the market, told WLRN.
A similar scene played out in in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood, typically bustling with immigrants from Latin America, Asia and the Middle East. But on Sunday, the streets were noticeably calmer and vendors seemed to have taken the day off due to the threatened raids.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Saturday that ICE had already attempted to make arrests in the city, but they were not successful.
In Chicago, another city where federal immigrants officials were expecting to conduct raids, streets in immigrant communities were scarcer than on a normal Sunday. Mayor Lori Lightfoot addressed the residents on the north side of Chicago before the raids were supposed to start.
“This is a community that has a diversity of people coming from all over the world,” she said. “There’s been a lot of rumors,” Lightfoot said. “Dangling this sword over peoples’ head is causing great harm and trauma to entire households, entire communities.”
The weekend operation was reportedly supposed to focus on immigrant families who have been sent final orders of removal after failing to appear in court. And top administration officials have argued that many of the estimated 2,000 migrants who fit this category have ignored requests to turn themselves in. President Trump originally set the nationwide raids for June before delaying the planned mass arrests in order to give Congress more time to hammer out changes to federal asylum law.
Granting that attributing tactical foresight to Trump’s actions is problematic, none of this makes much sense.
If Trump actually wanted to round up thousands people who are in the country illegally, then announcing the raids on Twitter would seemingly be the last thing he’d want to do. Surprise would make ICE’s job easier and safer.
Conversely, if the point of the tweets was to gin up excitement in the base, then failing to follow through is bizarre. They already thought Trump was on their side on the issue. But raising expectations of action and then not doing it should lead to disappointment. Now, Trump is just another politician talking tough about enforcing our immigration laws without actually doing it.
So, two possibilities come to mind.
First, the announcements have instilled tremendous anxiety among the target population. A New York Times report by Caitlin Dickerson, Nick Corasaniti and Edgar Sandoval (“ICE Launches Raids Targeting Migrant Families“) is mostly anecdotal but powerful on that score:
Though millions of people live in the United States without documentation and are periodically targeted for deportation, the latest raids are aimed primarily at families from Central America who have been arriving in large numbers since fall. With President Trump repeatedly thwarted in his attempts to slow the ongoing surge, the raids aim to deport parents and children who are not eligible to stay in the country — some within months after their arrival — as a way to deter others from coming.
A number of undocumented immigrants took measures over the weekend to avoid interacting with the authorities — staying home and not answering the door — but some will not have that option when the workweek begins on Monday, suggesting that agents may be more successful at making arrests.
“My boss said we should be on alert because ICE may show up, but I also have to go to work,” said Arcenio, an undocumented immigrant in the New York borough of Queens. He was standing on Roosevelt Avenue with his wife, Elizabeth, as a group of about 200 immigrant activists and politicians marched by, protesting the raids and chanting “Stand Up! Fight Back!”
“I can’t stay home all day,” Arcenio said. “My children need food. I need to pay rent. We have to keep living our lives. We know that there is a risk we won’t see our children when we close our apartment door. I really don’t want to think about it.”
Three of his American-born children — two boys, 12 and 8, and a 4-year-old girl — fidgeted next to the couple. Their youngest, a 2-month-old girl, rested in her baby carrier.
“The little ones don’t understand what’s happening, they are too young,” he said. “My oldest does. He watches the news and comes and asks me, ‘Dad, why do they want to separate us? Why do they want to deport you?'” Arcenio said with a sad smile. “He knows we don’t have papers. He’s afraid I may not come back every time I leave the house.”
So, maybe this is just a particularly cruel form of the “self-deportation” that Mitt Romney talked about in 2012. Maybe Trump hopes that the awful conditions in the border concentration camps and the fear created by the threatened raids will not only deter migration but even send people fleeing back across the border.
The other obvious effect of the repeated announcements, of course, has been to generate efforts to help the target population avoid capture by authorities. The NYT story again:
The plans for the operation were changed at the last minute because of news reports that had tipped off immigrant communities about what to expect, according to several current and former Department of Homeland Security officials. Instead of a large simultaneous sweep, the authorities created a secondary plan for a smaller and more diffuse scale of apprehensions to roll out over roughly a week. Individual ICE field offices were given the discretion to decide when to begin, one official said.
The first reports of ICE activity came in on Friday and Saturday. In Chicago, a mother was apprehended with her daughters, but the family was immediately released under supervision according to a person familiar with the operation. ICE agents approached at least one other home in the area, but the woman inside refused to answer the door, according to local news reports.
A teenager who lives with her parents in Passaic, N.J., said she was awakened at about 1 a.m. Sunday by a knock on the door from people she believed to be ICE agents. Having seen numerous “know your rights” posts on Instagram, she knew not to open it.
“They said, ‘We need to talk to you, can you come outside, can you open the door?’ I said, ‘Do you have permission to come inside my house, do you have a paper?'” she recounted. “They said, ‘We’re not trying to come inside your house, we just want to speak with you.’ And I said, ‘No I’m not coming outside.”
Early Sunday morning, about 30 volunteer “ICE chasers” had fanned out across the Atlanta suburbs, where many Latino immigrants live. But after nearly three hours without any reports of arrests, they returned to the offices of a local advocacy organization for coffee and doughnuts, saying they would start again on Monday morning.
Again, this was an obvious response and one that makes ICE’s job much harder and potentially more dangerous. And, again, it may simply be that Trump didn’t anticipate the obvious.
But maybe inciting this was a goal?
Dave Schuler, who’s more sympathetic to Trump’s goals but equally appalled by his methods, had this to say yesterday morning:
As long as those being apprehended are on final deportation orders, I think that Democratic politicians who’ve been quite vocal in their defense of these illegal migrants are overplaying their hands. When asylum requests are rejected those making the requests are by definition no longer “asylum-seekers”. These politicians need to be seen to be showing more sympathy for legal immigrants and American citizens than for those entering the country illegally.
Maybe Trump’s goal here is simply to force Democratic politicians to embrace what’s effectively an open borders policy and otherwise be seen to be on the side of those breaking our immigration laws and against American law enforcement agents doing their jobs? While I think he’s overplayed his hand in that regard—particularly with yesterday’s racist tweets about Democratic Congresswomen who are American citizens—he may well be achieving his desired effect.